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Philosophy Theses Department of Philosophy

8-13-2019

Schopenhauer's Philosophy of Religion and his

Critique of German Idealism

Nicholas R. Linhares Georgia State University

Follow this and additional works at:https://scholarworks.gsu.edu/philosophy_theses

This Thesis is brought to you for free and open access by the Department of Philosophy at ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University. It has been accepted for inclusion in Philosophy Theses by an authorized administrator of ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University. For more information, please contactscholarworks@gsu.edu.

Recommended Citation

Linhares, Nicholas R., "Schopenhauer's Philosophy of Religion and his Critique of German Idealism." Thesis, Georgia State University, 2019.

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IDEALISM

by

NICHOLAS LINHARES

Under the Direction of Jessica Berry, PhD

ABSTRACT

A significant but easily overlooked metaphilosophical theme in Schopenhauer’s corpus

concerns the relationship between religion, philosophy, and “man’s need for metaphysics” (WWR

II 162). I discuss the importance of this theme, and its attendant methodological commitments, for

how we should understand Schopenhauer’s unique approach to global religious and mystical

traditions. I demonstrate that explication of this theme provides a coherent, cogent way to identify

and evaluate the substantive reasons, often unstated and which may otherwise appear to lack

coherence or cogency, that underlie Schopenhauer’s criticism of philosophers associated with the

tradition of German Idealism.

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IDEALISM

by

NICHOLAS LINHARES

A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of

Master of Arts

in the College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia State University

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Copyright by Nicholas Reiff Linhares

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IDEALISM

by

NICHOLAS LINHARES

Committee Chair: Jessica Berry

Committee: Sebastian Rand

Tim O’Keefe

Electronic Version Approved:

Office of Graduate Studies

College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia State University

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I wish to acknowledge foremost the extraordinary counsel, patience, and support of Jessica

Berry over the past year. I am grateful not only for the level of engagement and always helpful

feedback that she has volunteered in the process of writing this thesis, but also for providing me

with an exemplary model of scholarship and mentorship with which to aspire.

I further acknowledge the insightful and attentive criticisms that Tim O’Keefe and

Sebastian Rand, whom I also take as exemplary scholars, have provided, which required and

enabled me to rethink and ultimately strengthen the positions I take and arguments I make in this

thesis.

I finally wish to acknowledge the example of lifelong learning and pursuit of edification

set by my parents, Paul and Cathy, who I take to have provided me with an appreciation of what

Aristotle calls “the sort of education in which parents should train their sons, not as being useful

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ... V

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ... VII

1 INTRODUCTION ... 1

2 PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION, AND METAPHYSICAL NEED ... 4

3 THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SCHOPENHAUER’S PHILOSOPHY OF

RELIGION AND HIS CRITICISM OF SCHELLING AND HEGEL ... 17

4 CONCLUSION: WHY IT MATTERS ... 27

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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

HN … Der Handschriftliche Nachlass (Manuscript Remains, with volume number)

SL … Science of Logic

WWR I … The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1

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1 INTRODUCTION

Immanuel Kant cast a long shadow over nineteenth-century German philosophy. Kant

sought to identify the principles – including a priori conditions, such as time and space, and

categories of understanding – that make conscious experience possible. His immediate followers

– Johann Fichte, Fredrich Schelling, and G.W.F. Hegel – in an effort to complete Kantian Idealism

and insulate it from skepticism, did not stop their inquiry at the principles Kant identified. Each

posited, in addition, the existence of an unconditioned ground that precedes and unifies all such

principles, which they thought of as the absolute.

Arthur Schopenhauer, who viewed himself as Kant’s true intellectual successor, strongly

disagreed with these philosophers’ projects, especially the primacy they afforded to the notion of

the absolute.1 Schopenhauer takes philosophy to originate with “man’s need for metaphysics”

(WWR II 162) to make sense of the chaotic, insufferable nature of existence. Philosophy can satisfy

this need only if it has recourse to a ground that is, in principle, universally accessible.

Schopenhauer identifies this ground with what he takes to be the very antithesis of the Idealists’

“absolute”: subjective embodied experience.2 I propose that we can best understand the reasons

for the primacy Schopenhauer affords these commitments by turning to an influence evident

throughout his corpus, which nonetheless may be easily overlooked: his comprehensive study of

global religions and the philosophy of religion that grew out of that study.

Schopenhauer’s approach to religion was radical for his time – he was perhaps the first

modern European who attempted to charitably understand the teachings of all religious traditions

without viewing them as precursors to Christianity.3 He rejected the putative superiority of

1Schopenhauer himself studied under Fichte and Schelling while a doctoral student at the University of Weimar. 2Schopenhauer does not use this exact phrase, which I define in the following section.

3For a comprehensive discussion of the dominant contemporaneous attitude towards comparative religion, promoted by

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proto-Christianity and therefore analyzed the validity of the metaphysical and ethical principles

advanced by various religious traditions independently of each other. It is this unique,

cosmopolitan perspective that underlies his disagreements with the preeminent German

philosophers of the early nineteenth century.

That perspective led him to conclude that the metaphysical principles advanced by any

given religion at any point in history could be characterized as either pessimistic or optimistic.4

Pessimistic principles reflect the experiences of embodied subjects: that to exist is to suffer, that

suffering is derived from willing, and so to cease suffering one must cease willing. A thoroughly

pessimistic metaphysics delivers a system of ethics wherein compassion and self-denial are the

highest virtues. Optimistic principles, on the other hand, are contradicted by the experiences of

embodied subjects: they posit that the world and its creator are good, so humans should be grateful

to exist. Schopenhauer argues that the greater the degree of optimism in a religion, the more

abstract and convoluted the defenses of its metaphysical principles are bound to become. And if

the degree of theological abstraction becomes so great that a religion’s teachings become

implausible to its followers, it will leave them without an ethical axis around which to orient their

lives.

In the first section of this essay, I explain in further detail what Schopenhauer’s

metaphilosophical and methodological commitments entail, why he held them, and how we should

understand the relationship between philosophy, religion, and what he calls “metaphysical need.”

I then turn in the second section to how these themes highlight, for Schopenhauer, problematic

consequences of the positions advanced by philosophers associated with German Idealism. The

Christianity (and the influence of this attitude on Hegel), see chapter one of Christopher Ryan’s The Death of God and the Oriental Renaissance (2010).

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most important of these is an implicit denial of the reality of suffering to preserve the goodness of

God. Schopenhauer recognized an optimistic current in Christian metaphysics so pervasive that it

could be intellectually defended only by means of this radical denial of what he took to be the most

self-evident fact of existence – a defense that German Idealism readily supplied. And he contends

that if a religion’s metaphysical system can be salvaged only by such a denial, its principles will

eventually be found to be so contrary to the lived experience of the common people that they will

be unable to maintain their faith in it. They will then be left without cogent, coherent reasons to be

compassionate, selfless, and humane. For Schopenhauer, a person who would defend such a

religion because they presuppose the truth of its principles has no right to be called a lover of

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2 PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION, AND METAPHYSICAL NEED

Schopenhauer argues that philosophy and religion have the same fundamental aim: to

satisfy “man’s need for metaphysics,” which is a “strong and ineradicable” instinct to seek

explanations for existence that arises from “the knowledge of death, and therewith the

consideration of the suffering and misery of life” (WWR I 161). Every system of metaphysics is a

response to this realization of one’s finitude, and the function of those systems is to respond to that

realization by letting individuals know their place in the universe, the purpose of their existence,

and how they ought to act. All other philosophical principles (most importantly, ethics) follow

from one’s metaphysical system.

Both philosophers and theologians claim the authority to evaluate metaphysical principles,

but the standards by which they conduct those evaluations are very different. Schopenhauer

concludes that philosophers are ultimately in the position to critique principles that are advanced

by theologians, not vice versa. He nonetheless recognizes that the metaphysical need of most

people is satisfied by their religion. This is unsurprising because, he contends, the vast majority of

people find existence “less puzzling and mysterious” than philosophers do, so they merely require

a plausible explanation of their role in the universe that can be adopted “as a matter of course”

(WWR II 162). In other words, most people require a metaphysical framework around which to

orient their lives that is merely apparently true. Therefore, the theologian has no functional reason

to determine what is actually true. By contrast, the philosopher is someone whose metaphysical

need is not satisfied by merely apparent truths – he is intrinsically driven to seek out actual truths

about the nature of the world. In his 1831 dialogue Religion, Schopenhauer has Demopheles put it

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Religion is the metaphysics of the people, which by all means they must keep … Just as there is popular poetry, popular wisdom in proverbs, so too there must be popular metaphysics; for mankind requires most certainly an interpretation of life, and it must be in keeping with its power of comprehension. (2, original emphasis)

This passage echoes an unpublished note, from Schopenhauer’s time as a student of Fredrich

Schleiermacher, rebuking his professor’s claim that “no one can be a philosopher without being

religious,” with the retort “no one who is religious attains to philosophy; he does not need it. No

one who really philosophises is religious; he walks without leading-strings, perilously but free”

(HN2 243).5

To discover what is actually true about the world, one must first identify some ground of

knowledge for “what is common to all, the objective phenomena lying before us all, and … the

facts of self-consciousness as they are to be found in everyone” (WWR II 613). So this ground

must originate “neither from the object nor from the subject” but “that which contains and

presupposes them both” (WWR I 25). It must be, in principle, universal. The only such ground is

what I term subjective embodied experience. A subject is “that which knows all things and is

known by none” while an object or representation is a thing that appears within time and space,

and can only be known by a subject (WWR I 5). Schopenhauer denies the possibility of a

disembodied subject. To be is to be a finite thing. Thus, to the extent that one is a subject, one is

necessarily also an object, that is, a physical body.

The body is therefore “that representation which forms the starting point of the subject’s

knowledge” (WWR I 19) and is an immediate objectification of the subject’s will, “the inner nature

of his own phenomenon, which manifests itself to him as representation both through his actions

and through the permanent substratum of his body” (WWR I 109). Thus, all human experience,

necessarily mediated by the body, consists in equal measure of will (subjective) and representation

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(objective). So, ontologically, Schopenhauer accepts the “compatibility of empirical reality with

transcendental ideality” (WWR I 4). This compatibility is to be found in and only in the experiences

of a subject that is also an object. He therefore rejects any purported ground of knowledge

predicated on an ontological division between the subjective and objective as erroneous.

Schopenhauer notes early in WWR I that he takes this conclusion to align with the teachings

of Vedanta Hinduism. Those teachings, according to an essay he references by the British

orientalist William Jones, “consisted not in denying the existence of matter … but in correcting

the popular notion of it, and in contending that it has no essence independent of mental perception;

that essence and perceptibility are convertible terms” (Asiatic Researches, vol. IV, 164, cited in

WWR I 4). Like Vedanta Hindus, Schopenhauer does not deny the existence of finite objects but

contends that they cannot be understood as essentially separate from the subject that perceives

them. If there were no subjects, there would be no objects, and vice versa.

This reference to Vedantism is one of many that Schopenhauer makes to Eastern religions.

It can be tempting to read these references as appeals to authority, which would undermine

Schopenhauer’s claim that a philosopher never merely relies on religious authority. It can also be

tempting take these references to suggest that Schopenhauer believes a metaphysical system

modeled on Eastern religions should replace Christianity, as Christopher Ryan6 has recently

argued. Both temptations should be resisted.

Schopenhauer’s position is not that all religious claims about the nature of reality are per

se false. It is that prior to philosophical scrutiny, one cannot be sure that such claims are not, at

best, just apparently true. Any metaphysical principle, religious or otherwise, can be validated only

by appeal to a universal ground of knowledge, which Schopenhauer identifies with subjective

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embodied experience. To the extent that he sees himself as a real philosopher, then,

Schopenhauer’s reference to the claims of the Vedanta school amount to this: On the basis of my

unprejudiced investigations into the nature of reality, grounded in reflection upon experiences

accessible to me and in principle all embodied subjects, I judge that the general metaphysical

framework advanced by Vedanta Hinduism is accurate. This does not necessitate the conclusion,

for Schopenhauer, that other religions’ metaphysical principles are inaccurate. It is certainly

possible that other religions could conceive of the ontological relationship between subjectivity

and objectivity in a way similar to the one that Schopenhauer attributes to Vedanta Hinduism. But

unless philosophers are able and willing to set aside their preconceived notions about the

superiority of their own religious traditions, they will be unable to notice such similarities, or

question their implications, as Schopenhauer did. Those calling themselves philosophers thereby

err in presupposing that only one religion is the one true faith, or by uncritically incorporating

concepts that developed within a specific religious context in their purportedly philosophical work.

It is this kind of admixture of religion and philosophy that Schopenhauer finds objectionable.

An important reason for this objection concerns the unique nature of religious texts and

experiences. Schopenhauer argues that, because its function is to provide a system of metaphysics

for the average person, who has a limited capacity to comprehend metaphysical truths, religion

must be less direct when making its claims than philosophy. Religious teachings can be of

“inestimable benefit” to the average person, but “with reference to the mental capacity of the great

mass of people, they can only [present] an indirect, not a direct truth” (WWR II 168). This indirect

truth is that which “has itself under the veil of allegory” (WWR II 169). Such allegories employ

symbols, allusions, narrative tropes, figurative language, and cultural references from the time and

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by a literal reading of the text. Schopenhauer discovered that this approach to writing and

interpreting religious texts was common to mystical traditions arising in vastly different

civilizations. He remarks on the similarities, when read allegorically, found “in the Oupnekhat,7 in

the Enneads of Plotinus, in Scotus Erigena, in the passages of Jacob Bohme, and especially in the

wonderful work of Madame de Guyon, Les Torres, and in Angelius Silesius, and finally also in

the beautiful poems of the Sufis” (WWR II 612).

Schopenhauer approves of what he takes these texts to be communicating through the veil

of allegory for the same reason that he endorses Vedanta metaphysics: their claims can be

confirmed by reflection on the experience of embodied subjects. Such reflection, most importantly,

reveals that to exist is to incessantly suffer. Pleasure arises from pain; the former is only the

momentary diminishment of latter. Satiated hunger is quick to return; today’s accomplishment or

reward is soon forgotten, and the desire for another, more significant one takes its place. He

identifies subjectivity with will: a blind, amoral, lusting, striving, desiring and hungering force that

animates everything that exists. As embodied, one experiences this essentially unitary force, will,

as individual and personal, but all finite things objectify and are animated by it.8 Attempting to

satiate the will is futile – like heads of the Lernaean Hydra, as one desire is eliminated, others

immediately take its place, ad infinitum. Only individuals of extraordinarily rare character, who

are able to fully deny the will by refusing the pursuit of any objects of pleasure and devoting

7This refers to an incomplete version of The Upanishads compiled in seventeenth century Persia that Anquetil Duperron

translated into Latin in 1802. It was the first direct exposure that most Europeans had to primary source material expressing Hindu doctrines.

8Sandra Shapshay argues that Schopenhauer uses the term willas a metonym for the Kantian thing-in-itself. Schopenhauer

acknowledges that, as a name, and thus a representation, “will” cannot be identical to that which it names and represents:

“if this thing‐in‐itself (we will retain the Kantian expression as a standing formula)—which as such is never object … is to

be thought of objectively, then we must borrow its name and concept from an object, from something in some way

objectively given, and therefore from one of its phenomena … here of course we use only a denominatio a potiori, by which

the concept of will therefore receives a greater extension than it has hitherto had … anyone who is incapable of carrying out the required extension of the concept will remain involved in a permanent misunderstanding’ (WWR I 110-11).

Denminatio a potiori literally means “receiving its name from what is better, superior or greater.” Thus, on Shapshay’s

reading, “By use of this metonymic device, the denominatio a potiori, naming the thing‐in‐itself ‘Will,’ he hopes that we will

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themselves entirely to acts of self-denial and sacrifice, are able to transcend the incessant states of

pain that otherwise await all embodied subjects.

In all of the mystical literature he references, Schopenhauer sees allegorical attempts to

convey the same fundamental truth that is consistent with the observations above. The ability to

see through the veil of allegory results from subjecting mystical texts to sound philosophical

scrutiny. That is what Schopenhauer did between November 1815 and May 1816, as he worked

his way through the first ten volumes of Asiatick Researches.9 He came to understand the Indian

concept of Maya10 and “Kant’s ‘phenomenon’ as one and the same thing: this world in which we

are living, we ourselves in so far as we belong to it” (HN1 #564 trans. App 2014, 241).11 One for

whom “the veil of Maya has dropped from the eyes … recognizes himself in every being” (HN1

#626 trans. App 2014, 242). This is the state he takes to be denoted by the term nirvana, whereby

one is driven to extreme compassion and empathy out of the realization that “the sufferer and the

one who causes suffering are one” (HN1 #626 trans. App 2014, 243). The truth he sees conveyed

allegorically is that we are painfully deceived by the apparent nature of phenomena, and

overcoming this deception is concurrent with increased degrees of compassion, “the

immediate participation, independent of all ulterior considerations, primarily in the suffering of

another, and thus in the prevention or elimination of it” (On the Basis of Morality §16, original

emphasis). Schopenhauer has Demopheles claim in Religion that “[s]uch an allegorical

representation of truth is always and everywhere” (10). And, indeed, he identifies this same truth,

allegorically veiled, at the heart of Western religious traditions as well as Eastern ones.

9At the time the preeminent journal devoted to the study of Indian philosophy and religion.

10Often translated as “illusion” or “deception” and traditionally depicted as a demon with authority over the material

world.

11All citations to Urs App refer to his original translations of previously unpublished, archival material. This material was

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Schopenhauer characterizes this truth as pessimistic: the traditions he references describe

the world in terms of suffering and contend that insofar as we continue to attempt to satiate the

will, we are guilty of contributing to the sufferings of the world. Such teachings present the

phenomenal world, and its insufferable nature, “as something which can be conceived only as the

consequence of our guilt, and thus really ought not to be” (WWR II 170). In contrast, optimistic

principles “present the existence of this world as justified by itself, and subsequently praise and

commend it” (WWR II 170). Schopenhauer’s real philosopher denies the veracity of optimistic

accounts because they are thoroughly contradicted by the experiences of embodied subjects, which

constitute the only criterion that can be universally appealed to in order to ground claims about the

nature of the world. There is no a priori “experience” of the world. The only question for the

philosopher is whether a given metaphysical claim is justified – confirmable by the experience of

embodied subjects. To the extent that the claim is pessimistic, that question is answered in the

affirmative; to the extent it is optimistic, it is answered in the negative.

A religion that contains a large proportion of pessimistic precepts – such as Buddhism –

thus need appeal only to such reflection on embodied experience to justify them. Schopenhauer

does not consider religions that ground their claims in this way to be theological. On

Schopenhauer’s view, the discipline of theology arose only to rationalize the spurious precepts of

optimistic religions. Since the notion that the world is inherently good conflicts with the direct

experience of embodied subjects, these optimistic precepts can only be defended with appeal to

abstract “reasons” disconnected from subjective embodied experience. It is the purview of

theology to provide such reasons. An organized religion that intermixes pessimistic and optimistic

precepts – one that, for example, admonishes its adherents to “love not the world nor the things of

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very good” (Genesis 1:31) – must develop a highly abstract conceptual framework to provide

intellectual justification for the notion that both assertions can be true. A thoroughly pessimistic

religion, however, doesn’t need theologians to develop such a framework: there is no inconsistency

between its claims and subjective embodied experience such that abstract intellectual justifications

are necessary to convince adherents of their veracity.

It therefore should not be surprising that Schopenhauer understands the teachings of

Gnosticism, in contrast to those of orthodox Christianity, as the purely pessimistic and thus more

veridical expression of Jesus’ teachings. As discussed in more detail below, Schopenhauer’s study

of Gnosticism led him to conclude that its organizing principle was mythos, as opposed to logos,12

and that Gnostic texts were intended to be interpreted allegorically, without a singular, dogmatic

interpretation enforced by a central authority.

Schopenhauer allegorically identifies will with the Gnostic demiurge (WWR II 620). The

Gnostics held the phenomenal world to be inherently unjust and life filled with suffering, so they

maintained that its creator, the demiurge, must be either evil or ignorant, and that both he and the

world he created must have been cosmic mistakes. So, they held that above the demiurge resides

a higher God, dwelling in the pleroma. The Valentinians, one of the largest Gnostic sects, describe

how “30 aeons make up the Pleroma” and that the last of these aeons was Sophia (Wisdom), whose

“‘Desire’ was separated from her and cast outside” the Pleroma (Minns 2010: 37). This separation

is the origin of the demiurge and the phenomenal world. Since a true God has no desire, He has no

will and thus does not act. However, as a result of this lack of intervention in the world, many

people mistakenly take the demiurge to be the supreme entity.

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The literal truth of the claims that the Gnostics make is not important for Schopenhauer;

he does not believe that the demiurge or aeons exist. What is important is that the Gnostics

themselves did not understand their texts to be conveying literally truths (unlike Christian

theologians who purport that the canonical gospels are historically accurate accounts of Jesus’

life). They derived their beliefs from what they called gnosis, which denotes “not primarily rational

knowledge … we could translate it as 'insight'” into the true nature of the world (Pagels 1979:

xviii-xix). Schopenhauer takes gnosis to denote the same type of experience described by Buddhist

accounts of nirvana and similar concepts in other mystical traditions. Just as the attainment of

nirvana corresponds to increased compassion, their gnosis led the Gnostics to “reject [the

demiurge’s] gifts” – all the objects of willful desire – for “they lamented the infinite misery of

existence, and added that it is better to bring no children into such a world” (WWR II 622). He

juxtaposes these teachings to those of Clement of Alexandria, who authored a text “vigorously

censuring” them (WWR II 622). Yet Schopenhauer contends that “it is precisely this [pessimistic]

spirit [of the New Testament] that the Gnostics grasped more profoundly and understood better

than did our Church Father” (WWR II 622).

We can identify how the pessimistic spirit of these teachings corresponds to an allegorical

approach to reading scripture by examining the Valentinian interpretation of Matthew 8:5-13.

There, Jesus offers to go to the home of a Roman centurion to heal his paralyzed servant. The

centurion replies, “Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. But only say the word,

and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me”

(Mathew 8:8-9). To the Valentinian Gnostics, the centurion, as an authority figure, symbolized the

ignorant demiurge (Irenaeus: 1:7:4). In this passage, he is seen declaring himself unworthy to have

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deference to Jesus’ authority over him as Christ, an aeon whose true abode is in the Pleroma – viz.

Christ is a “son” of the true God (Irenaeus 1:7:4). Christ himself is held to be bodiless,13 but took

human form to “save” humanity, symbolized by the servant, since its master – the centurion or

demiurge – is impotent to do so. This salvation takes the form of imparting the wisdom of

compassion, self-sacrifice, humility, and other virtues that evince denial of will.

Whether any interaction between a Roman centurion and the historical Jesus ever actually

took place is entirely irrelevant to the inner truth of what the Valentinians believed the passage to

convey. The Gnostic, unlike the Church Father, sees the real, inner truth of the nature of the world

as independent of any temporally-bound narrative. Rather than declaring (as Schopenhauer takes

the Church Fathers to do, in spirit), “[t]he demiurge has made this world; from this it is a priori

certain that it is excellent, no matter what it looks like” (WWR II 622), the Gnostic, like any

adherent of a thoroughly pessimistic religion, does not need to search for reasons extraneous to his

experience as an embodied subject to justify his beliefs. For, as mentioned above, orthodox

Christian theology is logos-centric, while Gnostic “theology” is mythos-centric. Thus, Gnostic

writers do not, as Maurice Blanchot accused Thomas Aquinas of doing, engage in a “rigorous form

of a determinate logic and a mode of questioning that is actually a mode of answering” (The Infinite

Conversation 3).

This aligns Gnostic phenomenology with that of polytheism, which Paul Tillich notes in

Systematic Theology, “is a qualitative and not a quantitative concept.” (222). In other words, the

difference between polytheism and monotheism is not reducible to a mere dispute about the

number deities that exist. Rather, polytheists interpret (and represent) their experience of the world,

and its inner nature and the relationship between that inner nature and phenomenal appearances,

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in a fundamentally different way than monotheists. “Polytheism, as qualitative,” Tillich contends,

“is characterized by a lack of belief in a transcending, unifying, ultimate” (Systematic Theology

222). For Schopenhauer, the belief that Tillich claims polytheism lacks is clearly an optimistic

one; it promises that the subjective embodied experience of suffering serves some higher –

“transcending, unifying, ultimate” – purpose.

Tillich seems to be on firm ground in asserting that paganism lacks this optimistic belief.

Moreover, because of this lack, it should be unsurprising that pagan “theology” does not attempt

to identify, by way of rationalization and abstraction, universal laws or patterns that demonstrate

that existence has some transcendent, unified, ultimate purpose. Consider the Germanic creation

story preserved in The Elder Edda: “From Ymir’s flesh the earth was formed, and from his blood

the sea; rocks from bones, trees from hair, and from his skull the sky” (“Grimnismal” 40).14 This

is not intended as an historical, literal account that ascribes purpose to creation by locating its

origin with a unifying, transcendent, ultimate divinity by and through which all existential

contradictions are rationally resolved. On the contrary, it aims to express that the world, and its

inner nature, “does not derive its status of existence from something that is not part of it” (de

Benoist, On Being a Pagan 67). The “sacred is connected to visible, tangible reality, even and

especially when it idealizes the latter” – unlike the abstract, deductive, determinate logic employed

by monotheistic theologians, the mythos of paganism proceeds by way of “induction based on lived

experience” (On Being a Pagan 109, 111). Reinforcing this interpretation and the allegorical

understanding of such mythic accounts, Tacitus writes of Germanic pagans that, “Their holy places

are woods and groves, and they apply the names of deities to that hidden presence which is seen

only by the eye of reverence” (Germania 9).

14Strikingly similar accounts can be found in the Rigveda and most all other Indo-European belief systems. See Benveniste,

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Schopenhauer likewise understood the Gnostics to represent what they took to be the inner

nature of the world – the “hidden presence” of Tacitus’ Germans, which is not essentially separate

from the phenomenal world as it is experienced by embodied subjects – in an allegorical,

mythos-centered way, as opposed to a rationalistic, logos-mythos-centered one (as theologians like Aquinas do).

The Gnostic is as unconcerned with rationally proving the existence of their demiurge or aeons as

Germanic pagans were with proving the accuracy of the creation story preserved in The Elder

Edda. For neither Gnostics nor Germanic pagans believed that the legitimacy of the “truth” about

the nature of the world expressed by way of allegory depended upon the literal, historical accuracy

or logical cogency of such allegorical representations.15 Schopenhauer extends this

characterization to other religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, that he classifies as

pessimistic.

With regards to Gnosticism in particular, contemporary historians and philosophers of

religion largely concur with that characterization.16 Such scholars argue that, unlike the books of

the Evangelists, which are taken by orthodox Christian theologians to be in at least some sense

historically accurate (they are taken describe phenomenal events that occurred in a specific time

and place), the Gnostic gospels were in no way understood by Gnostics to be expressing literal,

historical, or logical claims about phenomenal events. This is why they often appear to be,

superficially, entirely inconsistent with each other. But the genuine philosopher, according to

Schopenhauer, can see beyond this superficiality at the level of logos to identify the shared beliefs

15Further, Gnosticism as well as Germanic (and likely all forms of Indo-European) paganism rejects a transcending, unifying,

ultimate divine creator or ordering principle. The Gnostic demiurge is cast outside the transcendent pleroma, is divisive and chaotic, and is not ultimately perfect or good. Both Gnosticism and paganism, on the basis of subjective embodied experience, allegorically portray the “truth” of the inner nature of the world (understood by those with gnosis or “the eye of reverence”) as inseparable from its phenomenal objectivity. The Gnostics merely go a step further than pagans, as do Buddhists and Hindus, on Schopenhauer’s reading, by a more radical denouncement ofthe desire for things of the world.

16See: Jeffery Kripal, The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion (2006); April DeConnick, Voices of the

Mystics: Early Christian Discourse in the Gospels of John, Thomas and Other Ancient Christian Literature (2001); Iaon Couliano,

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about the inner nature of the world that they allegorically express, which cannot be communicated

rationally.17 And the genuine philosopher can identify similar beliefs expressed in all allegorical

religious texts, not only those of the religious tradition into which he was born, because he does

not attempt to impose a “mode of answering” questions about such texts that derives from his own

belief system in advance of encountering those of other traditions.

17See, e.g., WWR II (611-12): “Philosophy has its value and virtue in its rejection of all assumptions that cannot be

substantiated … Its theme must restrict itself to the world; to express from every aspect what this world is, what it may be

in its innermost nature, is all that it can honestly achieve … Now it is precisely here that the mystic proceeds positively, and

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3 THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SCHOPENHAUER’S PHILOSOPHY OF

RELIGION AND HIS CRITICISM OF SCHELLING AND HEGEL

While Schopenhauer takes the genuine philosopher’s ground of knowledge to be subjective

embodied experience, he takes those associated with German Idealism to identify that ground with

one or another notion of the absolute. The reasons for Schopenhauer’s suspicion regarding the

absolute are very similar to those advanced a century later by Heidegger as part of his criticism of

“ontotheology.” As we have already seen to be the case with Schopenhauer, Heidegger finds the

notion that one can be both a philosopher and religious a “pernicious opinion” because the nature

of the questions that philosophy asks “is, for faith, foolishness” (Introduction to Metaphysics 8).

He contends that philosophy itself, due to the strength of this pernicious opinion, “has deteriorated

to a tradition in which it gets reduced to something self-evident [and provides] merely material for

reworking, as it was in Hegel” (Being and Time 43). This deterioration began when Ancient Greek

philosophy was “uprooted” and its original unencumbered nature “forgotten” after being stamped

“with the peculiar character which the Scholastics gave it” and subsequently “traveled the path

that leads through the Disputationes meta physicae of Suarez to the ‘metaphysics’ and

transcendental philosophy of modern times, determining even the foundations and aims of Hegel’s

‘logic’” (43-44). Three contentions relevant to the present discussion are encapsulated by the

neologism “ontotheology” alluded to above.18 First, since it was merged with Christian theology

via Scholasticism, philosophers have “forgotten” the unencumbered nature of philosophy qua

philosophy. Second, commensurate with this forgetting, philosophers took the truth and superiority

of Christian doctrine to be self-evident, unable to consider as problematic the way this belief

affected their projects. Finally, German Idealism is not an exception to the first two charges.

18This is by no means intended as comprehensive account of the various facets or implications of Heidegger’s criticism of

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Schopenhauer anticipated Heidegger’s criticisms of German Idealism, for similar

reasons.19 As discussed above, Schopenhauer identified the problematic nature of Christian

theology’s endeavor to use logic and reason to support positive assertations about the inner nature

of the world. And he further charged philosophers such as Hegel with doing much the same, and

to similar ends, without acknowledgment. In this way, Schopenhauer’s critique of German

Idealism does not depend on a thorough and unimpeachable technical mastery of, for example,

Hegelian dialectic. Like much of Heidegger’s criticism, Schopenhauer’s critique is

metaphilosophical and methodological: he takes thinkers such as Hegel and Schelling to build their

philosophical systems upon a foundation of unexamined and unwarranted optimistic,

crypto-theological assumptions. And as a result, he contends that those philosophical systems, whatever

their technicalities, cannot possibly identify the truth of the inner nature of the world, as they claim,

and necessarily have pernicious consequences.

As early as 1811, Schopenhauer’s manuscript notes reveal that he was highly critical of the

tendency of his professors, namely Schelling and Fichte, to blur the distinctions among philosophy,

mysticism, and theology. Schelling describes the absolute as “the ideal [that] is also immediately

real, [and it] cannot be known through explanations, only through intuition”20 (Philosophy and

Religion 24-25). He further declares that God is “the form – through which the essentiality of the

Absolute depicts itself” and that the “absolute is the only actual; the finite world, by contrast, is

not real” (Philosophy and Religion 26-27). When Schelling argues that the absolute can be known

by intuition alone, he means that the absolute cannot be known by experience. In his system,

19I position Schopenhauer alongside Heidegger merely to demonstrate the salience, and frame the discussion, of

Schopenhauer’s criticisms of the methods and assumptions employed by philosophers associated with German Idealism, which resonate with a (still) very influential later critique of the same. Insofar as myconcern is simply the not insignificant, perhaps even somewhat uncanny, resonance between their criticisms of German Idealism in particular, it is not necessary for the purposes of this essay to elaborate on whether or not Heidegger considered Schopenhauer an ontotheologian or was justified or unjustified in doing so.

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intuition is a faculty that allows us to grasp supersensible, a priori truths. Thus, Schopenhauer

concludes that for Schelling, the absolute is “not thinkable, but is merely intellectually intuitable”

(WWR I 25). However, he doesn’t take Schelling to have adequately demonstrated that such a

faculty exists, and even if it does, that it’s universally accessible. Hence the caustic claim that he

is unable to present a technical, detailed critique of the absolute, as he “wholly lack[s]

reason-intuition, [so] all these expositions which presuppose it must be to me like a book with seven seals”

(WWR I 25).

Schopenhauer’s reading of Schelling is neither superficial nor uncharitable. Schelling

explicitly asserts in Philosophy and Religion that “those who arrive at the idea of the Absolute

through the description that philosophy provides … never achieve more than a conditional

knowledge of it; but it is not possible to gain unconditional knowledge from a conditional one”

(11). Given Schelling’s claim that philosophy cannot adequately describe the absolute,

Schopenhauer’s assertion that works expounding on its nature are like “a book with seven seals”

is apt – it suggests that such works have an inappropriate quasi-religious or pseudo-mystical

character. Schopenhauer first noted as much in unpublished commentary on Schelling’s

Philosophical Investigations from the winter of 1811/12. He chastises that work as “almost entirely

a recasting of Jacob Boehme’s Mysterium Magnum, in which practically every sentence and

expression can be identified” (HN2: 316-7, trans. App: 2014, 66).21 The problem is that Schelling

appropriated Boehme’s concepts, originally used in a mystical context, in the development of a

purportedly philosophical – not theological – system. Schopenhauer protests that he borrows

Boehme’s “similes, forms, and expressions” but didn’t undergo the same experience of

21Boehme was Christian mystic born at the close of the German Renaissance. A shoemaker by trade with no formal

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“realization of eternal truth” that they allegorically attempt to describe (HN2: 314, trans. App:

2014, 66-67). Therefore, Schelling is led to “take the peel for the fruit or at least [he] cannot

distinguish one from the other” (HN2: 314, trans. App: 2014, 66-67). That is, Schelling does not

identify a universal ground of knowledge that he then uses to evaluate mystical or religious claims;

he instead incorporates mystical terms, without full comprehension of the truth they seek to

allegorically convey, into his metaphysical system as he is building it.

Schelling is not unique in this regard. Hegel also expounded on Boehme’s work, and even

deemed him “the first German philosopher” (Muratori 2016: 1). This epithet shows how Hegel

implicitly rejects the distinction Schopenhauer makes between philosophy and religion. We can

glimpse the significance of this rejection for Hegel’s thought by turning to a remark in the Science

of Logic, where he writes,

The idealism of philosophy consists in nothing else than in the recognition that the finite is not truly existent. Every philosophy is essentially idealism or at least has idealism as its principle, and the question then is only how far this principle is carried out. This applies to philosophy just as much as to religion, for religion also, no less than philosophy, will not admit finitude as a true being, an ultimate, an absolute, or as something non-posited, uncreated, eternal. (SL 124).

Thus, Hegel agrees with Schelling’s earlier claim that the finite is not real, and that the absolute

alone has true being. This is a different claim from Schopenhauer’s, which is that the finite

(representation) is as real as the infinite (will), but both are real only insofar as they are known,

that is, experienced, by embodied subjects. An embodied subject can only experience the will,

which is truly infinite, metonymically, as finite, as “his” individual will through the medium of

his embodiment as an object, a representation, existing in time and space. The will itself cannot be

known or experienced as infinite by anything, because every “thing” is by definition finite.22 The

22Thus, Schopenhauer concludes the first volume of WWR with the claim that “to those in whom the will has turned and

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world is will and representation: this duality is perceptible only by embodied subjects; one cannot

exist without the other, just as a subject cannot exist without an object. That finite objects are real

only to the extent that they are experienced in space and time does not necessitate the conclusion

that they are “not truly existent” – indeed, they are existent by virtue of the fact that they can be

experienced in time and space. As mentioned earlier, Schopenhauer takes this position to be

consistent with Vedanta and Buddhist metaphysics. Therefore, he would have realized the

inaccurate, ontotheological nature of Hegel’s categorical assertion that religion does not admit

finitude as uncreated and eternal. Hinduism and Buddhism do not conceive of the division between

the finite and infinite in the same way as Hegel, and either do take what he calls finitude to be

eternal and uncreated or else dismiss the concern entirely.23

Schopenhauer, on the other hand, understands disparate religions traditions, regardless of

where they are practiced or when they were founded, or whether they bear any superficial

similarity to each other, to convey identical inner truth that, due to the nature of language, is

expressed in many ways in different times and places. The allegories these traditions produce

develop independently, influenced by vastly different conceptual frameworks. He does not grant

ontological legitimacy in a literal sense to any specific concepts from any of these traditions, but

reads the primary texts from all of them allegorically. Hence, he was able to understand the Gnostic

demiurge as a concept originating within a late Hellenistic, syncretic framework that expresses a

metaphysical principle allegorically portrayed in other religions as well. Once such a principle is

identified, it can be confirmed as congruent or incongruent with a metaphysics based on reflection

of “Prajana-Paramita of the Buddhists, the ‘beyond all knowledge,’ in other words, the point where subject and object no longer exist” (412, my emphasis).

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upon subjective embodied experience. The same cannot be said of the “unthinkable” absolute of

German Idealism.

As a further result of his approach to religious texts and traditions, Schopenhauer is able to

recognize how in “the life of the Christian penitent or saint and that of an Indian [guru] … in spite

of such fundamentally different dogmas, customs, and circumstances, the endeavor and the inner

life of both are absolutely the same” (WWR I 339). Given the extent to which they extolled the

superiority of Christianity, it would not occur to Hegel or Schelling that practitioners of other faiths

could have an inner ethical life as rich as that of a Christian. Schopenhauer manages to avoid this

kind of provincialism in part because he is unconcerned with the rationalistic theological

exposition of primary religious texts. He reads all religious texts allegorically, and his

understanding of what those allegories seek to convey is not foregrounded by a set of

hermeneutical principles established by the theological tradition of any given religion.

In many ways, Schopenhauer’s treatment of the gospels in this regard is an act of the

highest charity and respect. He does not dismiss the canonical works of Christianity based on his

disagreement with the claims made about them by theologians. Instead, he takes pains to read the

gospels in such a way that they can appeal to the authority of what he takes to be the ground of

genuine philosophy, charitably assuming that they are attempting to convey something profound

and true about the world “as if through a veil and mist” (WWR I 387). He takes his approach to

such texts to be epistemically well-grounded in a way that theological approaches are not. As a

result, his exegesis of orthodox Christian scripture is conducted with the same care and respect as

his study of The Upanishads and Sufi poetry. He neither dismisses orthodox Christian scripture,

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abstractions and rationalizations that obscure allegorical readings of scripture that readily conform

to subjective embodied experience.

Schopenhauer’s approach stands in stark contrast to the one demonstrated in Philosophy

and Religion. There, Schelling attempts to account for how religions that embraced metaphysical

monism throughout history explained how the finite came to be sundered from the infinite. He

presents a taxonomy of such religions, classifying them as either advancing a “fall” model of

reality, an “emanation” model, or a “dualist” model. The fall model (exemplified by Christianity)

posits that “the origin of the phenomenal world is conceivable only as a complete falling away

from absoluteness by means of a leap” (Philosophy and Religion 26). The emanation model

(exemplified by Neo-Platonism) posits that “the outflowings from the godhood, in gradual

increments and detachment from the originary source, lose their divine perfection, until, in the end,

they pass into the opposite (matter, privation)” (Philosophy and Religion 24). The dualist model

(exemplified by Zoroastrianism) “explains the mixture of the finite and infinite principles in the

phenomenal world by assuming an incessant state of conflict between two primeval beings”

(Philosophy and Religion 25).

Schelling argues for the ontological superiority of the fall model, because the dualist model

makes God “the originator of evil” and the emanation model, while not as egregious as the dualist

model, nonetheless implies that God can be corrupted, and, ergo, be less than perfect (Philosophy

and Religion 26). Because he asserts that only the absolute is actual and the finite world not real,

Schelling claims that the reason for finitude can be explained only by way of “a remove, a

falling-away, from the Absolute” and “no finite thing can directly originate from the Absolute or be traced

back to it” (Philosophy and Religion 26 and 29, original emphasis). These assertions are an

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as we have seen, there is no sound philosophical reason to presuppose this privilege. There is,

however, a clear theological one. Schelling manages to preserve the goodness of God in the face

of the fact that everything we have recourse to that would form the basis of a sound methodological

inquiry – one based on our subjective embodied experience – indicates that the world and its

creator are not good. Schelling attempts to foreclose any such inquiry. He begins with the

assumption that God is good, and the absolute actual. Only then does he turn to the finite, which,

subject to change, decay, and corruption, is by definition not good (in the sense of perfect,

immutable, and eternal). Therefore, he concludes that the finite must be devoid of absoluteness

and thus reality.

However, this argument only holds if one adheres to the sort of metaphysical optimism that

Schopenhauer associates with Clement, in contrast to the pessimism of the Gnostics; if one holds,

like Tillich, that there must be some “transcending, unifying, ultimate” that defines the meaning

and purpose of life, in contrast to simply the immanent chaos of becoming embraced by paganism.

That is, the validity of Schelling’s argument hinges on whether the absolute is actual, God exists,

and is good. These are the very optimistic assumptions that set the parameters for his investigation

and conclusion, but a philosophical methodology that “assumes in advance what it professes to

deduce” (WWR I 34) is an epistemic dead end. Solely with reference to subjective embodied

experience, we have no reason to accept Schelling’s optimistic assumptions. Indeed, we have every

reason to reject them. Yet to the extent that he, like Schopenhauer, takes note of the suffering

attendant upon finitude, Schelling manages, deftly but abstrusely, to make it support the exact

opposite conclusion (which aligns with his presupposed religious commitments). Rather than

acknowledge the problem that suffering poses for the Christian God, he denies that suffering

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Schopenhauer’s contestation of these conclusions does not just rely on a reiteration of the

problem of evil. God’s existence or non-existence and culpability or exoneration are tangential

issues. What’s at stake for him is whether existence is desirable at all. He is convinced that any

real philosopher, who, with recourse only to explanations congruent with subjective embodied

experience, reflects upon the acutely experienced injustice and hardship that all living things

encounter undeservingly each day, will issue the verdict that, “unless suffering is the direct and

immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim” (On the Sufferings of the World

1). He takes this verdict to be incontrovertible as well as the basis of morality – and precisely what

German Idealism, as befits its apologetical character, will not admit.

If non-existence is indeed preferable to existence, we can see why questions about God are

tangential to what’s truly at stake. The knowledge that hell has an architect will not transform it

into heaven, and that those condemned by their birth to live in this hell can hold such an architect

culpable for their torment does nothing to lessen it. The classic rendition of the problem of evil

contends that if God could have prevented suffering, he would have. But if it is not possible for

existence to be free of suffering, as Schopenhauer holds, the next question we must ask is whether

it is better to exist and suffer than not exist at all. Schopenhauer sees no reason to think that it is.

With this point in mind, we return to Schelling’s and Hegel’s degradation of finitude. We

have seen that unlike those philosophers, Schopenhauer takes the infinite and finite to be

ontologically equivalent. For to deny of the reality of finitude, as they do, is to deny of the reality

of the experience of embodied subjects, which in turn functions as a denial of the reality of their

sufferings. Thus, they completely sidestep the question of the value of our existence: we need not

be concerned with whether non-existence is preferable to existence, because finite beings and the

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there is no “conduit or bridge between the infinite and the finite” (Philosophy and Religion 26).

Because of this lack of a bridge between the infinite and finite, they can justify dismissal of the

epistemic value of subjective embodied experiences (the most fundamental and obvious of which

is that of suffering). And thus is the reality and goodness of God preserved at the cost of making

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4 CONCLUSION: WHY IT MATTERS

I have argued that Schopenhauer saw German Idealism as a project committed to defending

Christian metaphysics. I’ve provided evidence showing that the unique, cosmopolitan nature of

his study of religion enabled him to identify the problematic nature of this endeavor. But if religion

is merely popular metaphysics that fails to satisfy the real philosopher’s metaphysical need, and

German Idealism is fundamentally a religious project, then the real philosopher would surely

recognize this and move on. The deeper problem lies with the common people who, unlike the

philosopher, acquire ethical principles from their religion.

Recall that for Schopenhauer, to the extent they can satisfy the average person’s

metaphysical need, religious teachings have the capacity to be “an inestimable benefit … [but]

with reference to the mental capacity of the great mass of people, they can only have an indirect,

not a direct truth” (WWR II 168). Recall further that allegory is the most successful way of

conveying this truth, which is fundamentally pessimistic. Finally, recall that theology grows

progressively abstract and convoluted the more it attempts to reconcile pessimistic truths that

conform to embodied subjective experience with optimistic claims that do not.

In support for these contentions, I would with confidence posit that most members of the

Christian faithful do not spend, and have never spent, much time pondering the arguments made

in the writings of the Church Fathers, Martin Luther, or encyclicals published by the Vatican. If

this is an accurate observation, at least two explanations, which are not mutually exclusive, seem

likely: the faithful do not need to be convinced of their faith by theologians or philosophers, and

they find theological and philosophical works uninteresting, pedantic, or incomprehensible. Once

theologians or philosophers find it necessary to construct complex intellectual defenses of their

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the truth of its principles. Ergo, abstract arguments are made to discredit the ways in which their

subjective embodied experience contradicts the religion’s metaphysical principles.

Any such argument, however, merely delays the inevitable unless the root cause of the

contradiction – the religion’s promotion of optimistic metaphysical principles – is addressed. So,

just “as the oldest languages are the most perfect, so too are the oldest religions” (WWR II 169),

because the oldest extant religions (Hinduism and Buddhism) are the least optimistic.24 They have

survived for so long because their pessimistic principles are consistent with the lived experience

of their adherents – and so, those religions do not face the existential vulnerability caused by the

inconsistency between their principles and subjective embodied experience that more optimistic

religions confront.25 As mentioned earlier, the metaphysical need of the common people is satisfied

if the principles presented by their religion are apparently true such that they can be accepted as a

matter of course. This is a low but not vacuous standard. Should the common people come to see

their religion’s principles as blatantly incompatible with subjective embodied experience, they will

no longer be able to adopt it as a matter of course. The more abstract and technical the defense of

the religion becomes, the harder it will be for most to comprehend. Such a defense will therefore

ultimately fail to convince the common people of the apparent truth of their religion’s principles.

The religion will then have failed in its fundamental function and head towards demise.

The common people, lacking both an apparently true metaphysical system that can be adopted as

a matter of course and the real philosopher’s intellectual curiosity and power of comprehension,

24Relatedly, we can infer that the reason Schopenhauer finds the oldest languages to be the most perfect is because they

retain descriptions of the immediate objects of perception that are as direct and unencumbered as possible, with the least amount of abstraction. See WWR §9 for his discussion of the origin and development of language, and the relationship between immediate perception, reflection, concrete and abstract concepts, and the necessary progression of a linguistic

concept over time to become a “representation of a representation … not a representation of perception” (41-42).

25Though, pessimistic religions are not invulnerable to more direct, external threats (for instance, physical violence and

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will then have no clear way to answer the existential questions that give rise to their need for

metaphysics. So, there will be no regulative or inoculative force to prevent them from believing

that the highest good consists in attempting to satiate, rather than deny, the will by seeking to

acquire the objects of their willing. Yet it is this attitude towards one’s willing and the objects at

which it is directed that is the root of all suffering. When religion, as popular metaphysics,

performs its function successfully, such attitudes and the vicious propensities they engender are

kept in check.

Schopenhauer’s strident criticisms of Christianity indicate that he believed it was on the

precipice of being unable to perform its function successfully. We should therefore understand the

scenario described above as what he took to be the near-condition of contemporary Europe,26 for

which the advent of German Idealism was proof. The abstract and oblique nature of the claims

made by those associated with German Idealism – including their rejection of an in principle

universally accessible ground of knowledge in favor of a universally inaccessible ground, and

subsequent denial of the reality of suffering – is entirely consistent with what Schopenhauer’s

philosophy of religion suggests the intellectual defenders of a religious tradition that it is no longer

capable of fulfilling its function would produce.

We can now see why Schopenhauer would conclude that German Idealism evinces the

worst of religion and the worst of philosophy. It perniciously intermixes the two but abandons the

core function of both. Those whose metaphysical need is satisfied by what their religion teaches

have no need for Hegel’s and Schelling’s discussions of the nature of the absolute. And those of

wavering faith who take solace in the notion of the absolute seek not the freedom of philosophy,

but the leading-strings of religion. Yet those leading-strings would not be of much support for

26It follows that Schopenhauer would not have been surprised that his most prodigious reader from the next generation

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long. It would be only a matter of time before they, no longer the well-woven cables of allegory

but rather the frayed twine of ontotheology, snap, unable to support the weight of the myriad

conceptual contradictions developed in the course of Christianity’s attempts to reconcile its

pessimistic truths with its optimistic delusions. For Schopenhauer, the solution to the impending

crisis of meaning facing Europe was not to be found in the notions of God or the Absolute, but

instead precisely in what German Idealism failed to provide (indeed, did its best to avoid

providing), and his system, as well as those of all thoroughly pessimistic religious traditions, does:

affirmation of the lived experience of embodied subjects as the constituent component of reality,

and recognition of what that affirmation entails for the meaning of one’s life and how it ought to

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REFERENCES

Anonymous (1270). Grimnismal. In: The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore. Edited and

translated by A. Orchard (2011). Penguin Classics: London.

App, U. (2014). Schopenhauer’s Compass. Wil, Switzerland: University Media.

Benveniste, E. (1969). Dictionary of Indo-European Concepts and Society. Translated by E.

Palmer (2016). Chicago: HAU Books.

Blanchot, M. (1969). The Infinite Conversation. Translated by S. Hanson (1992). Minneapolis:

The University of Minnesota Press.

Couliano, I. (1992). The Tree of Gnosis: Gnostic Mythology from Early Christianity to Modern

Nihilism. New York: HarperCollins.

de Benoist, A. (2018). On Being a Pagan. 2nd ed. Edited by M. Moynihan. Translated by J.

Graham. North Augusta, SC: Arcana Europa Media.

Deconnick, A. (2001). Voices of the Mystics: Early Christian Discourse in the Gospels of John

and Thomas and Other Ancient Christian Literature. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic

Press.

Hegel, G. (1816). The Science of Logic. Translated by G. di Giovanni (2010). Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.

Heidegger, M. (1927). Being and Time. Translated by J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson (1962).

New York: Harper & Row.

Heidegger, M. (1952). Introduction to Metaphysics. Translated by G. Fried and R. Polt (2014).

New Haven: Yale University Press.

Irenaeus. (180). Against Heresies. 2nd ed. Edited and Translated by A. Roberts and J. Donaldson

References

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